CONSUMERISM - CONSUMER BEHAVIOR AND IDENTITY
Consumerism, Consumer Behavior and Identity: the Extent in Policy Decision-Making
Today’s market is characterized by highly competitive organizations which are all vying for consumer’s loyalty. Profit-oriented firms are faced with the challenge to maintain their own competitive edge in order to survive and be successful. Strategies are carefully planned and executed to gain the ultimate goal of all: company growth. However, internal factors are not the only elements which influence growth. There are also external factors and components working within the organization which shape the direction of the organization. Among this is the consumer – the fuel of the organization.
The dynamics of contemporary living define most of the aspects of human life today. From traditional ways to technologically driven mechanisms, life indeed is no longer the same decades and centuries ago. The recent developments and revolutionary processes resulting to increased convenience of people in various applications contributed to the topical standards of living. Along with the changing business world, customers change as well, becoming more demanding, knowledgeable and highly sophisticated. Before, it is enough if they have purchased a product or service the best way and condition possible. Now, the process of commercial interaction does not end that way. There are more complex steps to be completed to be able to achieve satisfactory results. In turn, company management had shifted their focus on their clients or customers so as to stay successfully in business. This transition meant that organizations have to completely reformulate their conventional business aims and purposes from being process-focused to customer-centered.
In the business, the consumers eventually developed as a result of the radical emergence and amalgamation of innovative and manipulative processes in the global marketplace. Established characteristics in terms of their behavior and identity are important aspects to consider in studying the significant role they play in any economic endeavor. Furthermore, the subject of consumerism in given societies is becoming popular and a sought-after area of research. In connection, the presence of consumer policies and laws in the global market serve as controlling mechanisms to regulate the diversity of the international economic battlefield. This makes the buying experience even more multifaceted and interactive.
Advertising is the common playground where consumers ensnare themselves with products/services available in the market. The adverse effects of advertising are perceived to be reinforcing elements in the development of consumerist behavior and culture. This is where the aspect of policy decision making is applicable. The creation of regulating policies in connection to advertising and its effects to consumerism and consumer behavior is quantified.
This paper aims to critically analyze the extent of the relationship of consumerism, consumer behavior and identity with respect to policy decision-making of the state and business organizations predominantly in terms of the advertising medium. Specifically, it opts to qualify the extent of consumerism in relation to consumer behavior and culture. Guidelines in advertising are the parameters to be used in policy decision-making. Additionally, it will provide several conceptual backgrounds about the said areas of the general consumer. To fully substantiate the arguments and findings in this research, information taken from vast sources of literature is used as supporting documents. There are also specific examples to be used to illustrate the claims.
Initially, the understanding buyer behavior is one of the more perplexing tasks confronting every manager (). The difficulty arises from the heterogeneity of buyers, from their being groups of individuals who differ from one another. But differences notwithstanding, consumers do share attitudes, opinions, reactions, and desires at various times (). Business experience, marketing research, theoretical constructs and models, and trial-and-error methods help to find some of the common denominators.
Believing on the idea that the consumers are the fuel of every profit and/or non-profit organization, studying their behavior and identity remains parallel and important in every decision-making activity. Consumers have always been regarded as vital factors in relation to different organizational operations and functioning. They live and act in a constantly changing cultural, social, technological, legal, and economic environment. Shaped by the environment, marketing institutions, and activities in return have a major/minor impact on it. Their behavior and identity, on the other hand, significantly determine the business future in a particular part of country and given culture. As we all know, as region varies on its own, so does the consumer behavior and identity of such group of people in a region. Through observations of the consumer behavior, the category in competition, organization, and the marketing strategies of businesses are well evaluated. Consumer behavior is influenced by different aspects in its environment. It can be viewed with different factors such as the cultural, personal, psychological and social factors of the consumers.
The study of consumer behavior is one of the most interesting and challenging as well as important aspects in marketing management. Practically, essential decisions that are taken in developing an effective marketing mix for specific product/service are based in the systematic knowledge of the consumers that make up its permanent target market (). believes that understanding the behavior of the consumer is the most basic step in helping marketing authorities to visualize and predict future trends, reactions, and changes in the marketing mix. It may also serve as a reference in determining the potentials of new products and its adoption. Consumer behavior is said to be closely associated to marketing research – another important field that deserves further comprehensive investigation.
Each organization provides some products/services that are used by consumers, even though they may not always recognize as products/services by the consumers as such. For example, it seems fairly obvious that the college students who drink a cola produced by a specific beverage company are the consumers of that beverage product (). In a general sense, we can all think of public high school students as the consumers of a state's educational product; voters can be thought of as consumers of a political candidate's leadership and administration product; and, the members of a religious group might be viewed as consumers of a church's spiritual product (). Thus, the study of the behavior of consumers involves an examination of a wide range record of everyday human buying behavior.
Consumer behavior as defined by is “the activities that people engage in when selecting, purchasing, and using products and services so as to satisfy needs and desires” (14). continued: “…such activities involve mental and emotional processes, in addition to physical actions” (14). In general perspective, consumer behavior studies individuals, groups or organizations with regards to obtaining, using and disposing of products and services. It also accounts the decision processes that lead and follow these behaviors. Consumer behavior investigates consumers' actions, as well as the reasons for those behaviors. In order to fully understand the broad spectrum of consumer behavior, identified its macroscopic and microscopic perspectives. Consumer behavior in a macro level categorizes marketers to look for demographic shifts as well as the general public’s values, beliefs and practices which affect their interaction with the economic marketplace. Meanwhile, the micro level indicates consumer behavior focused on human behavior and the motivations underlying these behaviors. These concepts are drawn out from sociological and psychological perspectives as proven results of studies in the said aspect.
There are many factors that determine these activities, and the product/service is just one of them. There are some frameworks that helps explain customer behaviors. Among these are brand orientation model and integrated framework for cross-cultural consumer behavior. Others, on the other hand, are expressed through demographic research, such as the relationship of culture on consumer behavior. These models and studies are applicable to consumer behavior in general products/services. But delving into such topic discussion will make this report technical and might astray away from its real objectives. However, this essay will try to stipulate on the relationship of culture and its effects.
In the recent years, the study of consumer behavior and consumer decision-making has become a sought-after research field. Topics in the various fields of consumer science are considered hot stuffs in scholastic as well as marketing management sectors. Theoretically, consumer science includes the former discipline of home economics – the foundation of basic consumption. The consumer science discipline also evolves around consumer behavior and decision making concerning the necessities of live and survival. Among these are foods and nutrition, clothing and textiles, housing and interior merchandise in everyday living. (5) believe that the providence of the aforementioned goods will result to physical, psychological, socio-psychological and financial satisfaction in a complex micro and macro environment. Of specific importance, (5) observed that buying and consumer decision-making are complicated as based on the result of external influences that have to be handled within an internal frame of reference that has come about through consumer socialization (that may be/have been restricted).
Figure out this scene as an example of consumer behavior and decision making practice.
Barbara’s decision to purchase a wine for her boss was influenced by the distinctive gold lettering on a rich burgundy background, the slim and sophisticated “feel” of the bottle and its French label. She also bought the white wine because she associated it with elegant dinners. Moreover, Barbara evaluated the quality of the wine based on its expensive price. Clearly, Barbara, not a wine drinker, is affected by her perception in purchasing wine to impress her boss.
The complex phenomenon of consumer behavior is dependent to some considerable factors in the working environment of people. It is somewhat innate or even cultural in its foundation, external or internal in nature, or just a by-product of the common circumstances in the purchasing experience.
Advertising is among the external factors that plays a great role in the buying experience of people (). For the record, an average American household exposure to television advertising is about an estimated 7 hours per day times 9 to 16 minutes of nonprogram material per hour ( 16). Additionally, advertising traditions hold that the average consumer is exposed to over 1,500 radio, television, newspaper, magazine, and/or billboard advertisements per day. As a result, it could be said that advertising and its component influence the behavior of consumers. The promises of advertised products/services are subject to trial and materialization by the consumer. Thus, purchasing the said product/service is the sole way to prove its claims.
The daily exposure of people to all the different kinds of media makes it accessible and convenient for them to recognize the presence of the latest product/service in the market. With the assistance of ads, consumers are engaged in buying experience. As a part of their consumer behavior stimulation, there are internal assessments that are occurring within the limits of the human nature. In Taiwan, and colleagues studied the behavior of consumers in relation to the medium (481). They indicated that the elements of advertising, the manner of presentation, or a certain ad for instance, greatly affect the culture, concept and emotions, and other human attributes of a certain setting. More often than not, advertising contributes to the development of changes in connection to the existing behavior and identity of the consumer. It may also lead to the practice of consumerism.
According to , most advertising agencies keep on striking into insights on how to gain a deeper understanding on the reason why consumers behave the way they do (87). Further, advertising practitioners found assessment in probing the thoughts of every individual by using focus groups as variables in eliciting ideas for new products and promotional campaigns to be established ( 87). In advertising, I believe that people who are only exposed to recurring ads focus and elaborate on tangential cues such as the credibility of the source. For instance, a controversial political figure endorsing a product/service will simply be viewed as trash among its critics. Thus, the purchase of the product/service is almost impossible. This certain example is related in the process of forming brand attitude among the ordinary consumer that falls under the capacity of the advertising medium.
Largely, researchers linked consumer decision making in the study of perception. The study of perception is largely bounded on what humans consciously or subconsciously add to or subtract from their raw sensory inputs to produce a private and selective picture of the world ( 136). In general term, it is the process that involves the individual’s decision in selecting, interpreting, and organizing stimuli into a meaningful and coherent picture of the world. A stimulus is any unit of input to the senses – may it be products, packages, brand names, advertisements, and commercials ( 136). In studies of consumerism, it has become almost a cliché to claim that the purchase, use and display of goods in some way expresses social identities and is rooted to the persuasive effects of advertising. The relationship of consumerism and customer behavior plus advertising has been long overdue. Its interconnection opened up various horizons for academic marketing and management probing.
Consumerism is already deep-rooted part of every given culture (). It has become so disturbing on a global scale. Defining consumerism is always equated into a negative image. However, with this report, consumerism will be tackled in connection to the rights of consumers as well as its association to consumer behavior and identity towards policy decision-making. Traditionally, consumerism is known as the purchasing of products beyond the basic requirement of consumption.
“In a Buddhist view of mutual co-arising and radical interrelatedness the cause of consumerism is boundlessly plural--a virtual infinity of conditions affecting and being affected by countless other conditions. The desires of individuals have been conditioned by the way parents raised them, by the historical conditions… by the use (and increasing abuse) of media, and so on. (56)”
Furthermore, consumerism is related to environmental conditions that are persuasive. These conditions are contributory factors along with politics, economics, social institutions, industrial technology, and ideological tendency (). Take for example, the consumerist behavior of Filipino people during the holiday season perfectly illustrate the factors affecting the practice ().
With the various criticisms in consumerism, it has been connected with media applications such as advertising. In advertising, consumerism is a powerful mechanism that is driven by considerable sums spent on advertising. These are designed to generate both a desire to follow trends and the consequential personal self-reward scheme based on personal procurement. The basic idea of materialism and consumerism is one of the by-products of overt advertising.
The presence of consumerism in various cultures is studied in relation to policy decision making ( 56). The regulations made by the state are directed to the welfare and being of every buying individual. Laws on consumer rights are created to protect people against abuses in the economic marketplace. There are given considerations that are taken at hand when passing and eventually implementing such laws. The extent of consumer behavior and identity as well as the relationship of culture are fully considered in realizing its intended purpose. For instance, the advertising medium proliferate consumerism. Every advertisement is produced with the aims to procure interest among the buyer and persuade him/her to have the product/service. The aesthetics of advertising easily provoke a culture of consumerism ( 49). Paradoxically, quaintness in advertising shows consumerism correcting itself, disassociating itself from its own conceited techniques, hiding consumerism from the consumer and ostensibly rejecting the commercialism on which it is based. Thus, animated or unrealistic presentation of some advertisements could easily attain its goal - persuasion.
In reference to my personal experiences, advertising materials that are too-good-to-be-true are appealing to me. The tendency is that I am persuaded to try on the product/service being advertise. My buying behavior was stimulated by the ad. Therefore, it creates an identity that can lead to addiction and constant purchase beyond my normal consumption. As a result, I am practicing a culture of consumerism.
As of the moment, there are government policies that control media like advertising standards. Countries like UK, Canada, and some developing nations maintain protocol in using the said medium. It is always subject to regulation and continuous assessment. The measurement of its extent of applicability in connection to the personal characteristics of consumers is strictly implemented. Its degree of interdependency to consumer behavior and the present existing culture is not fully taken into considerable contemplation. This is the reason why the extent of policies must be measured in connection to consumer behavior as well as identity.
The emphasis on consumerism and an increasing awareness of environmental and ethical issues all have their implications for marketing strategists. Many firms are blending communications activities with public purpose policy decision making. Of course, innovation and the production of the new are intrinsic to consumerism and tend to structure the conceptual field of the study of consumerism. The connection of creating advertising policies to the release of new products/services is undeniable. Thus, advertising is among the medium where policies must be evaluated.
New connections between the cultural and the political, the visual and the material, advertising and personal belonging, consumerism and the rights of citizenship has been premeditated issues tackled by each government worldwide. Within European nation-states, individuals' access to citizenship rights has increasingly been framed through discourses of consumerism. The presence of communal and societal awareness and battle against consumerism is another turning point for legislative undertakings of the state’s authorities. People in various countries individually contribute to the cessation of consumerist behaviors or practices (). The sense of national belonging and citizenship to consumerism and focus on choice as a prime mechanism in the production of consumer-citizenship identities linked the idea of individual behavior and culture. Thus, the fight against consumerist attitudes is unyielding.
With the present realities, the intervention of state policies in the subject of consumerism is appropriate. State policies must deal with the basics of consumer behavior. Considering the various factors affecting the decision making of consumers, the government is expected to regulate advertising processes in all sorts of medium – print or broadcast. While advertising is a recognizable media to proliferate economic activity, policies created must deal with the common protection of consumers. However, the degree of effect to consumerism is boundless due to the fact that consumers possess the freedom to choose. This is aside from the truth that every consumer differs in behavior and identity. In advertising standards created, implemented, and promoted by authority, it is highly needed that every advertisement must present only what is real and substantial to consumers. The ethics of advertising is necessary for every media regulating system. Advertising policies and standards posed by authorities must be in accordance to the general moral discretion of the society and organizations. Thus, advertisements of organizations must maintain its commitment to corporate social responsibility. Prior to its public release, every advertisement must be taken into legal scrutiny in order to identify its effect in establishing the culture of consumerism. The protection of consumers’ rights and welfare is the main concern of the state as well as the business organization.
Furthermore, the measurement of the extent of consumerism, consumer behavior and identity in policy decision making of government is rooted on the natural laws of what is acceptable and not. As previously stated, ethics in advertising is the name of the game. For instance,
“… the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should become concerned with regulating… type of potentially unfair advertising…. the FTC prohibits a company from stating that its product will cure an illness when such is not the case, the FTC might begin prohibiting a company from stating that its product will encourage sexual satisfaction, make one more masculine/feminine, or promote a happier homelife when such is not the case” ().
There are more concerns that the government and lawmakers need to qualify in relation to advertising regulation. But then again, the dynamic state in every given situation of human life is a significant factor in determining the extent in policy decision making and taking.
Materialism in modern life is rooted in the innate freedom and quest for satisfaction of people. In the U.S., personal freedoms and life satisfaction or the need to optimize on life's happenings are both integral elements in lifestyles ( ). By this fact, the tendency to acquire a consumerist behavior is ubiquitous. It is indeed true. There are internal processes that occur during a buying experience. This is simply apparent due to the personal characteristics of certain consumers especially to the environment. and colleagues stated that “the standards and values that stem from the environment greatly influence consumer behavior, affecting purchasing and consumption activities, and the business organizations concerned. (485)”
The cultural context of consumer behavior can be defined as “the totality of the customs, arts, sciences, religions, politics, and economics that distinguishes one society from another, and that influences the individual consumer's behavior” ( 138). The presence of subculture among the main culture makes the difference. Subculture is usually defined as a category of people who share a sense of identification that is distinguishable from that of the culture as a whole. This shared sense of identification may result from a shared set of values, from a common history, or from similarity in socio-demographic attributes. Social class is perhaps the type of subculture that is most often used by consumer psychologists. The attribute that distinguishes between levels of social class is the relative level of social benefits (e.g., influence power, prestige, income, etc.). In connection to principles of consumerism, it could be assumed that this process is now a subculture.
All in all, the premise on economic interpretation of consumerism as the belief in the freedom to choose among consumers should indicate the economic structure of a society. This must be the basis of evaluating the extent of policy decision making of the states as well as business organizations. The relationship of consumerism, consumer behavior and identity in connection to activities, policies, and actions taken by the state and business organization must be based and dependent on the consumer’s behavior and identity.
The practice of consumerism, consumer behavior and identity will always be pertinent to the buying experience of consumers. Thus, proper regulation of such laws implemented must be strictly determined and observed. This will eventually serve the welfare of the ultimate beneficiaries – the consumers.